Let’s all give John Kerry a call, shall we? Filibuster reform NOW. [updated: Kerry's COS says he's in]

Brava, Senator-elect Warren! This kind of thing is exactly the reason we are so excited about winning this election. Senator Gillibrand (D-NY), per an email I just received, is in on this as well. It may actually happen. - promoted by david

UPDATE (by David): David Wade, John Kerry’s Chief of Staff, says on Twitter in response to this post that “kerry supports this and has for 2 years.”  So, the MA delegation is 2-for-2, I guess?

So right out of the gate, Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren is joining the fight for filibuster reform:

On the first day of the new session in January, the senators will have a unique opportunity to change the filibuster rule with a majority vote, rather than the normal two-thirds vote. The change can be modest: If someone objects to a bill or a nomination in the United States Senate, they should have to stand on the floor of the chamber and defend their opposition.

I’m joining Senator Jeff Merkley and six other newly elected senators to pledge to lead this reform on Day One, and I hope you’ll be right there with us. Our campaign didn’t end on Election Day — and I’m counting on you to keep on working each and every day to bring real change for working families. This is the first step.

While it’s certainly great (and hardy suprising) to see Warren getting out front on this important issue, what did I spy when I read a recent article in The Hill on the status of efforts to enact filibuster reform and past votes on reform?

Last time around, guess who didn’t vote on this critical issue?

Senator John Kerry, that’s who.


Without reform of the filibuster, all we will see is more of that toxic gridlock which everyone supposedly despises. In my opinion, given what we’ve seen the past four years, voting for filibuster reform should be a no brainer for every Democratic Senator, period.

I just called Senator Kerry’s office and, per the very friendly staffer I spoke with, he has not taken a position on this issue.

So let’s do something about that, eh?

Senator Kerry’s Washington office number is 202-224-2742.


35 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Duly called

    I got voice mail, annoyingly, but left a message as I know they count the support for/against policies and bills and such.

    This is so utterly crucial to a functional Senate.

  2. Payment with political capital

    I think this is a sensible compromise. Democrats are frustrated with the filibuster because of how frequently it has been used against them, making EVERY bill a 60-vote minimum. However, it is easy to forget that the origin of the filibuster was for the minority party to – when it was really important – require a higher standard to move forward.

    The problem with its current implementation is that there is no “cost”, so to speak, for using it. The general American public doesn’t tune in closely enough to be able to see general obstructionism versus fighting a very targeted fight on a specific issue. The US media doesn’t report filibustered bills as being obstructed by Republicans – they report them as “Congress fails to pass a bill”.

    The cost of a senator having to stand up and take the political hit for opposition will prevent this from being used casually. If 54 senators want to increase the minimum wage, then put a name, a face, and a party on the person who is holding that up. The filibuster can still exist to protect the rights of the minority; it just needs to be paid for in political capital.

  3. Me too

    I, too, called and spoke with a staffer who affirmed that Senator Kerry has not taken a position and is “listening to constituents” on the matter. I encouraged Senator Kerry to support the proposal from Elizabeth Warren.

    I said that I see no need to eliminate the filibuster, but to instead limit its use to those rare occasions important enough to require those who object to actually be present on the Senate Floor to voice that objection in person.

  4. Similar Proposal for State House of Representatives

    Kudos to Senator-elect Warren and others for taking steps to break the gridlock in the US Senate. A group of state legislators will file similar rules reforms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to allow a majority of members to move any legislation to the floor for a debate and vote on the merits. Can you say “bottle bill” or any number of other reforms that have never seen the floor for a vote? Can we get an “amen”?

    dan-winslow   @   Thu 15 Nov 3:49 PM
    • Danger, Will Robinson...

      the devil here is in the details… and I have a suspicion that the details of the SOTUS filibuster and the MA House process for bringing a bill to the floor for a vote aren’t quite identical.

    • Bottle bill

      Which is not to say that I don’t support the bottle bill. Oh how I would love to see an expansion in the bottle bill, both in the kinds of bottles included [water, sports drinks, tea], and the price [5 cents used to represent over 10% of the price of the drink], and heck, why not put a 25 cent deposit on glass wine bottles and a $1 deposit on 0.5L+ liquor bottles?

    • Dan, do you support

      an updated bottle bill?

    • To Rep. Winslow: Is this rules reform same as or different from

      the Rule 28 Coalition proposal from a while back?

      • Different

        The Rule 28 Coalition sought to apply Rule 28 as it now exists. The upcoming Rule 28 proposal would allow a majority of the House (say, in legislation sponsored by a majority such as the updated Bottle Bill) to move ANY pending legislation to the House floor for debate and a vote on merits. This approach will allow committee processes to work, if they can work, but reserves to the membership the right to majority rule on any particular proposal. No more chance for a few to prevent legislation from being considered by the many. What’s so “Danger, Will Robinson” about that??

        dan-winslow   @   Thu 15 Nov 10:26 PM
        • The succinct equivalance of two different items

          There are similarities between this Beacon Hill majority-rule concept and filibuster reform, but there are lots of things which aren’t the same. Furthermore, comparing two items is one thing, comparing two sets of rules is even more complex.

          I’m not arguing for or against this Beacon Hill majority-rule concept — I just think that rules changes should be explored carefully, thoroughly, and with the input from experience, from many different users, and so forth. It’s the kind of reform where two or three sentences on a message board simply doesn’t provide enough information.

          My suggestion: WRITE A NEW POST. This idea deserves plenty of electronic ink, so spill three or four paragraphs worth, and let us ask questions and poke at it. Extra credit if you can get EB3 to chime in.

          • I'm not so sure this is true

            Not sure the need to hem, haw, beard stroke and think about nuance here.

            It seems to me that Rep. Winslow is correct that in both instances, a minority– even a very small minority– of members can prevent something against the will of even the vast majority of other members. Doing that should cost something.

            The difference is that in the Senate, it is a minority that can prevent action by the majority; while the the Massachusetts House, it is the (purely theoretical) majority, in the form of the “leadership,” that can thwart the will of the entire rest of the House.

            The difficult nuance seems as always to be “Well, the minority with excessive power in Massachusetts are Democrats, whereas in the Senate they are Republicans.”

            • Don't shoot from the hip

              First of all, they clearly are different.

              The fact is, the US Senators themselves, elected by people, can choose to filibuster. When a bill — even supported by a majority of state reps — doesn’t come to the floor, it’s being held up by leadership who was elected by the majority of reps.

              Again, as it’s stated by Mr. Winslow, it sounds like it might well be a fine idea. But it’s a complex issue, and it’s worth knowing the details and the consequences before simply proclaiming that we should do it or that it’s equivalent to filibuster reform.

  5. This is puzzling

    I had thought Kerry came out for reforms long ago. I seem to recall hearing him say something to that extent. And the Washington Post wrote that, “Senators who did not vote Yes — such as John Kerry and Daniel Inouye — have come out for reforms.”

    So, it was my impression that Kerry has supported these reforms but was unable to vote for some reason. That a Kerry staffer says that he hadn’t made up his mind is puzzling, and I would definitely love more information.

    • Thank you for the links and info!

      I hadn’t seen the Greg Sargent piece @ Washington Post that you linked to — very informative, thank you for sharing. And he included a link to a Jan 2011 article in The Hill that quotes Kerry on several issues including the filibuster — here’s the filibuster-related portion of that article, which is interesting but obviously the article is close to 2 years old so it may very well not apply to the current filibuster reform proposal(s) being discussed:

      While [Kerry] said Republicans have used the filibuster too much as a tool to “undermine the presidency,” he did not say in his prepared remarks that he supports changing the rules to make it easier to break a filibuster.

      But in a question and answer session, he said he supports “the basics” of a proposal from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to rewrite the Senate’s filibuster rules.

      Kerry said the rights of the minority party need to be protected, but said the filibuster needs to change so it is not a “day-to-day tactic.”

      More specifically, he said senators currently do not have to explain why they are filibustering a bill, or even which senator is filibustering, and said he supports making the filibuster a “reasonable process.”

      If this in any way accurately reflects Kerry’s current thinking, it sounds like he could be convinced to get on board, as long as his concerns were addressed. And as long as he shows up to vote :-) Encouraging, but it would be nice to get his a better sense of where he stands today. It is puzzling and it would be nice not to feel puzzled on this issue!

  6. Clarification, please

    Is the proposal that a senator must now stand on the floor and make a speech indicating a filibuster – as opposed to just phoning it in, more or less – or is the proposal to go back to the old system in which a senator (or senators) must actually hold the floor for the duration of the filibuster?

    • The details

      I don’t think a definite proposal has been announced, my sense is that details are still being discussed. It seems from what I’ve read about the 201 effort, the actual language of that proposal, which failed, wasn’t released to the public until just before it was voted on — so perhaps it will be the same this time? Which would mean around the first week of January. But I could be wrong. Anyone else know?

  7. Thanks for promoting

    Much appreciated :-) Sorry for delay in responses. Just got home from the 350.org do the math event, which was pretty amazing!

  8. I think Dan Winslow is conflating a couple things.

    The General Court, as far as I know, does not have a filibuster as part of its rules. There is not unlimited debate or supermajority requirements to proceed. It sounds like what he is talking about is more akin to what Congress would call a discharge petition.

  9. That Warren woman is already causing problems!

    Next thing you know, she’ll be bitching that Social Security benefits shouldn’t be cut, and that the eligibility age for Medicare should not rise to 67!

    That woman is nothing but trouble. Trouble!

    Best regards,

    The Predator Class

    • Truly,

      My favorite people are those who won’t just go along to get along. I believe she can absolutely make a difference here, and I think she’s going to consistently be able to nudge key legislators over to the right side by publicly getting ahead of the curve on these kinds of issues.

      It’s for these reasons that we desperately need to make sure she gets on the banking committee. Imagine what her principal stands and public nudgings can do when she has that kind of a platform.

      RyansTake   @   Fri 16 Nov 12:05 AM
      • If she's allowed on the banking committee I'll be shocked

        I don’t think the Responsible Adult wing of the party will allow it.

        • Have you contacted Reid's office or at least

          Signed the petition to Reid on DailyKos? Most big finance donors don’t want her on the committee. The best chance of it happening anyway is massive grassroots pressure. No guarantee, obviously, but there’s got to be some kind of force pushing back on Reid to counter the big money. To paraphrase FDR, Make Reid do it.

  10. I Called Sen. Kerry and...

    I couldn’t get the guy of the phone. Talk talk talk. He wouldn’t shut-up.

    Last time I listen to abs068

    eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Thu 15 Nov 11:40 PM
    • Careful, EB3

      Whoever called may just be able to put two and two together.

      I think EBJ’s contract of unmasking for you may still be good :p

      RyansTake   @   Fri 16 Nov 12:08 AM
      • just to clarify

        When I called I specifically asked for the staffer who handles this issue, receptionist put me on hold for a few minutes, came back and said the senator was still considering the issue. So I never got to speak with the person on staff who handles this issue who, clearly, would have informed me that Kerry supports reform. To be fair somervilletom got the same response.

        • I did, and ...

          When I called, I asked to speak to “the staffer who is handling the filibuster reform issue”. The woman who answered replied “how can I help you?”

          I suspect EB3 has his tongue in his cheek.

  11. Thank you, Senator Kerry!

    I love the concept of this effort to reform the filibuster and bravo to Senator Kerry for getting behind it.

    RyansTake   @   Fri 16 Nov 12:02 AM
    • and another thank you!

      I didn’t see the update from Kerry’s COS until I woke up this morning – this is so helpful as a concerned constituent to have this clarified.

      I’m very glad that both our Senators will be on board when this critical issue comes up for a vote!

      Onward to lobbying the undecideds …

  12. Friendly staffer says Kerry supports filibuster reform

    It is hard to know exactly — and the Senator and his staff probably don’t know what the exact alternatives to be voted on are yet — but from my conversation it sounded like he was on board.

    The constitution says 51 Senate votes pass legislation. There is no provision for special delaying privileges for a minority. That is the rule in our founding document and that is the rule we should follow.

    Tell ‘em BMG sent you.

  13. Senator Kerry posted on BMG about this

    about 15 minutes ago, for those who haven’t seen the post.

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